Taj Gibson suffered through a really awful week. His Chicago Bulls got bounced from the playoffs in Tuesday's Game 5 loss, and on Wednesday, he woke up to find most of Twitter talking about Los Angeles Clippers super-sub Jamal Crawford winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Story going online now: ESPN has learned that Clippers G Jamal Crawford is the NBA's Sixth Man Award winner for second time in his career— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 30, 2014
Gibson helped carry the Bulls to 48 wins and the No. 4 seed in the East by bringing a potent blend of offense and defense off the bench. However, those contributions did not garner him any hardware.
According to Gibson on his Twitter account, blame should be laid on the usual suspect: political partisanship.
Politics!!!— Taj Gibson (@TajGibson22) April 30, 2014
In his fifth season with Chicago, Gibson turned in a stellar campaign and raised his scoring average from 8.0 points per game to 13.0. He racked up 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 assists in 28.7 minutes per game off the bench, averaging just over six more minutes than last season. He even raised his free-throw percentage to a career-high 75 percent after never shooting better than 68 percent.
If he does indeed think Crawford won the award because of "politics," Gibson actually sounds more like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. Many considered Gibson and Crawford as the top two candidates for the honor, and the lanky Clippers swingman put up his usual gaudy numbers.
Crawford played 30.3 minutes per game of reserve duty, putting up 18.6 points and 3.2 assists. At age 34, it marks the second Sixth Man Award for Crawford, making him only the fourth player to receive the honor twice.
If Gibson really would like to make a refutation of Crawford's eligibility, he could start by pointing out that the "sixth man" actually started 24 games this season and only played in a total of 69, whereas Gibson played all 82. However, the votes have already been counted and no one will be listening.
To be sure, Gibson's candidacy was very worthy of the award, and he often played like the second-best player on the team behind Joakim Noah.
After the Bulls lost former MVP Derrick Rose 10 games into the season, they traded two-time All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January. Gibson's play filled crucial gaps in the rotation.
Claiming the No. 4 seed with a decimated roster and allowing the fewest points per game in the league stands as quite an accomplishment for Chicago, despite getting exposed by the Wizards and dispatched unceremoniously from the postseason.
Gibson's great season far exceeded expectations, but Crawford didn't get the award because he's good at politics. He got it for playing big minutes off the bench and leading a potent second unit for the third-best team in the West.
By the way, league source says all @NBA awards were postponed this week because of Sterling controversy. Will resume next week.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 29, 2014
Worst of all, Gibson will have to bide his time and plot revenge on his political opponents as the league waits to actually confer the award on Crawford.
Who was more deserving of the Sixth Man of the Year Award?
The Bulls have some decisions to make in the offseason when Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin are set to be free agents. The team will cross their fingers about the health of Rose. Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy will return to man the 2 and the 3, but Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million contract remains an albatross for the team (via ShamSports.com).
The Bulls need to devise a way of finally moving Boozer's contract, as Gibson plays the 4 with similar offensive instincts and provides superior defense. He would be a candidate for the starting five, but that would leave the Bulls with virtually nothing on the bench.
Reserve scoring for the backcourt should be Chicago's chief pursuit this offseason, and it's no coincidence that they made an early postseason exit after losing potent bench options Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli from a year ago.